Anti-Valentine’s cocktails – don’t think pink

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Not everyone likes sweet, pink and fizzy. Hallmark certainly isn’t my idea of a romantic sentiment, and it’s OK if it’s not yours, either. But it does make Valentine’s Day a tricky one to celebrate if you have someone in your life who genuinely prefers you to all other human beings they’ve met and yet you don’t want to drink Strawberry Bellinis or sit in a bar draped in love hearts. I will be especially avoiding waiters with cupid wings this year as well.

So, whether you’re staying at home and fancy yourself as a bit of a bartender or beelining for a bar that isn’t making anything pink and sparkling, here are some classic cocktails to know and order (or make) which won’t make you groan, cringe or run a mile from.


Vesper cocktail

One of James Bond’s favourite drinks: the Vesper

This sharp Martini is the first cocktail James Bond ever orders – and with good reason. It’s bracing, dry and delivers a fast, cold hit of booze. Forget Valentine-themed Raspberry Martinis and Strawberry Daiquiris, this clean drink is far superior in flavour and style.

Make it at home:
45ml gin
20ml vodka
15ml Lillet Blanc
Lemon twist

White Negroni

Bitter, herbaceous and punchy but – crucially – not Valentine red. The White Negroni replaces Campari with Suze and sweet vermouth with Lillet Blanc, rendering the usually shocking red drink a pale Champagne-like colour. Think astringent bitterness minus that zippy orange note – the citrus in Suze is far gentler. Instead there’s a lovely musky, earthiness complemented by the delightfully floral Lillet Blanc.

Make it at home:
45ml gin
20ml Lillet Blanc
20ml Suze
Lemon twist


Diamondback cocktail

The Diamondback combines rye whiskey, apple brandy and Yellow Chartreuse

Less ring bling, more Luke Cage ferocity. This spicy, rich cocktail combines rye whiskey, apple brandy and Yellow Chartreuse to make a Manhattan-style drink which is perfect for an after-dinner tipple.

Make it at home:
60ml rye whiskey
15ml apple brandy
15ml Yellow Chartreuse

Corpse Reviver #2

Zesty lemon and absinthe dominate this fearsome line-up, making the Corpse Reviver #2 the most established and loved of its family. This recipe appears in a cocktail book dating to 1930, of which the author says ‘four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again’. You have been warned.

Make it at home:
20ml gin
20ml triple sec
20ml Lillet Blanc
20ml lemon juice
2 dashes absinthe


Smoky, spicy and sharp – everything a Hallmark card isn’t. The Penicillin is one of a bare handful of drinks considered a modern classic, and is credited with introducing peated whisky to the cocktail canon. Combining ginger syrup, peated Scotch, lemon juice and honey, it’s stunningly delicious and completely different from anything you’ll have tried.

Make it at home:
40ml blended Scotch whisky
10ml peated Scotch whisky
20ml lemon juice
10ml honey syrup
10ml ginger syrup

Jane Ryan is editor of DrinkUp.London – a daily-changing website showcasing the very best of the capital’s drinks scene.

Posted in Absinthe, Gin & Jenever, Liqueur, North American Whisk(e)y, Other Cocktails, Scotch Whisky, SPIRITS & LIQUEURS, Vermouth, Vodka, WHISKY & WHISKEY
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